Madrid had looked well on their way to victory after Angel Di Maria’s opener, but Marc Bartra headed a surprise equaliser with 20 minutes left. It seemed we were set for extra-time, but Bale had other ideas, sprinting half the pitch before calmly finishing from a tight angle to ensure that it was Blancos captain Iker Casillas who received the trophy from Spain’s King Juan Carlos I afterwards.
Cristiano Ronaldo was missing from the Madrid line-up with an injury, but young Barcelona centre-back Bartra was surprisingly declared fit to start. Although Blancos coach Carlo Ancelotti had claimed pre-game he would look to out-football their opponents, his tactics here were not that different to 2011, when Jose Mourinho’s side out-battled Barca to win the trophy.
A big difference though is that 2014’s Madrid had young playmaker Isco, not hulking destroyer Pepe, in midfield. The 21-year-old was excellent, sitting deep to help his teammates frustrate Barca’s ball-players, but then showing intelligence to launch his front three on the break.
That worked to perfection as Madrid hit the front 10 minutes in. Isco stole the ball from Dani Alves and immediately launched a counter which included Bale and Karim Benzema, before Di Maria strode clear to shoot low and just powerfully enough for the ball to evade the attempted save of blaugrana goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto.
That set the pattern of the game, with Barca having plenty of possession, but Madrid having the better chances on the break. Isco thought he had made it 2-0 after Bale had again run past Bartra down the left of the area, but Jordi Alba somehow got across to block.
At the other end Casillas had little to do — and he watched as Lionel Messi finally appeared just before half-time only to pull his volley well wide.
Madrid again had the better chances after the break. Bale volleyed just over. Sergio Ramos’ headed a corner at Pinto. Benzema forced an excellent stop from the 38-year-old keeper at his near post. The resulting corner saw Bale scramble the ball to the net, but the ref had seen a foul.
But then, to general disbelief inside the stadium, Barca equalised — and from a set-piece themselves. Pepe was caught under the ball and youngster Bartra superbly headed to the net from 10 yards for 1-1.
The drama was not over, however, as with just five minutes left Bale took off down the left, leaving Bartra trailing in his wake, and poked the ball through Pinto’s legs to put Madrid back in front and the 20,000 Blancos fans inside the Mestalla went home ecstatic.
MADRID: Casillas 6; Coentrao 6, Pepe 7, Ramos 7, Carvajal 6; Xabi Alonso 6, Di María 7, Isco 8, Modric 6, Bale 8, Benzema 7.
Subs: Illarramendi 6, Casemiro 6
BARCELONA: Pinto 5; Alves 6, Bartra 7, Mascherano 7, Alba 7; Busquets 6, Xavi 6, Iniesta 7; Cesc 5, Neymar 6, Messi 5.
Subs: Adriano 6, Pedro 6, Alexis 6